Artist in Residence

Giant Grass

“One of the most fundamental and practical aspects of art is the importance of materials. The stuff that artists use when they make a work of art influences both form and content. Every material brings something special to the creative process and the finished work. Materials influence how artists make their work and how viewers perceive it.”

   

 

This term, the year ¾ Neighbourhood will have the opportunity to work with artists from Giant Grass. Below is an extract from the Giant Grass website.

https://www.giantgrassdesign.com

Giant Grass is a social enterprise focused on sustainability and hands-on learning through bamboo. Promoting the use of bamboo is at the heart of what we do at Giant Grass. Our interest in bamboo is grounded in the intention to foster the use of this structurally high-performing, low cost and ecologically sustainable material in small-scale building industry. To achieve this vision we not only engage in design and building of bamboo structures but also conduct hands-on construction workshops imparting awareness about the possibilities with bamboo. Underlying this approach is the understanding that working with bamboo like any other natural material requires hands-on experience with the material. The vast amount of literature available for building with bamboo is not sufficient to fully understand the qualities this material. With each structure that we build we have experimented with the built form and connection details. Each new project brought new challenges and opportunities which enabled us to expand our understanding of this fabulous material. We strongly believe that design plays a key role in creating products and structures out of bamboo. Our design approach is based on using bamboo in its most natural form and exploring various possibilities whilst retaining the overall integrity of the material. 

 

The focus of our residency at PHPS will be on the artist’s relationship to the materials they use and feel a connection with. The project will involve a collaboration between the ¾ Neighbourhood, the visual art program, the music program with Deb Kayser and Giant Grass.

Students will have the opportunity to develop ideas and explore opportunities for sculptural and musical enhancements in their playground, using bamboo as the main material for their sculptural and musical innovations and building on the work of the existing playground project.

They will examine an artist’s connection to their materials and the message the use of these materials conveys in today’s world.

The project will provide students with the opportunity to be agents in their own learning and being empowered to be agents in change in relation to their playground and the enhancements that occur within it, empowering them to develop ideas in the area of visual art and music for their playground.

We are excited about the possibilities of this residency and look forward to seeing what innovations, ideas and sculptural and musical installations that result from the terms explorations.

Week 1

This week we had a wonderful introductory talk from Munir and Mittul from Giant Grass. They came to the ¾ Neighbourhood and gave a presentation about Bamboo and its amazing uses. They outlined possibilities for the use of bamboo and the process they use to make and create structures, installations and musical installations using this material.

Munir and Mittul are interested in Art, Design and Construction. They design and make things in bamboo. They first learnt about how to build and make with bamboo when they lived in a tribal community in India. When they moved back to Australia they worked on their first building with a team of University students. Since then, they have worked with many different groups and people creating a range of structures and installations.

They explained that when they make something, they learn through the process of concrete expression, reflective observation, abstract construction and active construction. It is a process that allows for reflection and learning from mistakes that are sometimes made when working through this process.

Giant Grass Believe in the material they use…. They have every confidence in the material of bamboo as a sustainable material that can be used in many applications. They also explained that all parts of the bamboo plant are used in a variety of ways.

         

The students were so enthralled and attentive throughout Munir’s talk. They asked some fantastic questions:

What inspired you to work with bamboo?

What is the key to building with bamboo?

What are your favourite things that you have built in the past?

What variety of bamboo is the strongest and has the strongest fibre?

Munir finished the talk with a list of the 10 most interesting facts about bamboo:

  1. It is a grass and not a tree
  2. It is native to every continent except Europe and Antarctica
  3. There are more than 1,500 species of bamboo
  4. It is one of the fastest growing plants – some plants grow as much as 90 cm in a day.
  5. A bamboo plant matures in 3-5 years.
  6. Bamboo is stronger than steel.
  7. Bamboo releases 35% more oxygen than trees.
  8. One of the very first lamps designed by Thomas Edison uses bamboo as a filament.
  9. The first plant to survive and re-green after the Hiroshima atomic blast was bamboo
  10. Bamboo is excellent at preventing soil erosion

We are very excited about beginning the process of making and creating musical instruments and art installations in our school grounds under the careful and skilled artists, Munir and Mittul.

 

How do we begin?    

                                                                             

Our first step is to further examine and explore this amazing material – bamboo. This week we are also examining the material closely. To use bamboo as the sole material in our projects, we need to understand it fully. We did this by examining it under magnifying glasses and exploring the patterns, shapes and structure of it. We then created a page of drawings that reflected our research of the material that will be the focus of our attention throughout the term.

 

Drawing the material we will use throughout the term will help us to understand it…..

 

 

This week we examined Bamboo through the magnifying glasses and created a range of detailed drawings. Through the close examination of the material we build a relationship with it. Here are some of the students drawing of a clump of the black sacred bamboo root system.

       

Drawing has helped us to also understand how we feel about the material. We also realise that we all see our subject matter from our own perspective.

Here are some of the student’s observations…

“I love how everybody’s perspective of the bamboo is different, so everybody’s drawing is different.”

“I see the bamboo as abstract shapes.”

“I like the feel of the bamboo.”

The shapes and nodes inside the bamboo are all so different.”

“I like how I can out a lot of detail into my drawing because it makes it turn out better.”

“Each piece is different- each piece has different patterns and shapes-your drawings are never the same.”

 

    

Week 2

This week the students played with bamboo off cuts from Munir and Mittul’s workshop. Working in small groups, their objective was to create designs of structures, or sculptures, which could be developed and installed in the school’s playground. The students drew and annotated their designs so that Munir and Mittul can review their ideas.

    

Following on from their observational drawings and studies of bamboo of week 1, the students deepened their connection to bamboo, and extended their understanding of its diverse potential.

The students commented that:

“Bamboo is a material with never ending possibilities”

“There are different ways of seeing, doing and using bamboo.”

The selection of off cut’s included different bamboo species which offered a variety of textures, colours and thicknesses. These pieces were in different lengths and shapes, and inspired many original responses from the students.

    

Students commented that playing and designing with the bamboo made them think differently about potential playground structures.

“It needs to look interesting and exciting”

“Our structure is welcoming.”

“We want to hide inside it and hide behind it.”

Student ideas encompassed designs of traditional playground structures such as climbing frames, slides and structures with bridges. As they explored and discussed their ideas further, there emerged a theme of creating structures or sculptures that would inspire imaginary play such as a Chinese Temple, underground tunnel mazes, and a marble-run maze, and…

    

“… random things to crawl through and stuff.”

“ … a place to hide, read, practice balancing and rolling.”

They also designed magical places of calm and contemplation such as a woven nest:

“We are creating huts. Bamboo is a calming material. This is our ‘Chat Hub’ “=

There were models of conversation spirals,  bamboo stepping stones of varying heights, a water feature, and bamboo domes clumped at the base of a tree.

When the students reflected on the process of playing with bamboo as a method to inspire design they commented:

“Best idea ever.”

“Fun: the idea of creating”

“… our ideas went longer.”

 

“I browsed pieces. I liked thinking about where to put a special piece.”

“We built up our ideas from the base.”

“I like guessing how big it will be in real life.”

“You don’t always stick to the first idea.”

“We bring ideas together.”

“I’m buzzing with excitement.”

“May I take a picture of you loving that?” (Hannah!) ☺️

“You can make a lot of things and you don’t know what you’re going to get.”

“I was doing it, and I thought it was pretty cool.”

“Through building you can work out what is possible.”

“Make it happen.”

“We’re Architects.”

 

This week our focus was designing sculptural structures….. Next week we will play with bamboo and our focus will be about music and sound.

Ideas are really emerging, and all the while we work and play with bamboo, our relationship with the material and our understanding about how it works, deepens.

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